No one ever said life was easy. But Ponyboy is pretty sure that he’s got things figured out. He knows that he can count on his brothers, Darry and Sodapop. And he knows that he can count on his friends – true friends who would do anything for him, like Johnny and Two-Bit. And when it comes to the beating up on “greasers” like him and his friends – he knows that he can count on them for trouble. But one night someone takes things too far, and Ponyboy’s world is turned upside down…
“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”
Written by S.E. Hinton when she was only 16 years old, the book is one of the classics of young adult literature. I first read The Outsiders five years ago and thought the book was alright, but I recently reread it and now I think it’s amazing. It deals with themes of friendship, loyalty, family, social status etc. The book is written from Ponyboy’s POV; he has his prejudices like all other narrators so he’s not entirely reliable. I wonder what the book would be like if it was written from the perspective of a different character like Soda or Dallas or even Cherry.
The version of the movie that I watched is the 2005 re-release called The Outsiders: The Complete Novel. It’s 22 minutes longer than the original movie and the soundtrack is changed so it contains lots of songs that were popular in the 60s. I don’t usually pay much attention to movie soundtracks but this one is just too good. I’ve never seen the original movie but this version is supposed to be much more faithful to the novel.
In the book, Ponyboy describes every character – it’s very much against the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule but in this book it works. The cast is amazing even if not all of them fit the character descriptions. Dallas Winston, for example, is described in the book as ‘anything but handsome’ but in the movie he’s played by Matt Dillon. I wonder if he would be such a popular character if he was played by someone who fit the book description.
Even in an adaptation as faithful as this one, there are some differences. I wouldn’t have minded if the movie was even longer than the extended version because characters like Sodapop could be more developed. Usually, in stories with two opposing groups of people, it’s obvious which one the author thinks is ‘good’ and which one is ‘bad’, but in The Outsiders it’s clear that nobody is completely innocent or completely horrible. I thought this was clearer in the book than in the movie. Also, for some reason, the two sides of the town in the movie are South and North instead of East and West – I can’t imagine why this change was necessary.
Both the book and the movie get a bit cheesy at times. Some line deliveries in the movie are a bit too dramatic (“We’ll do it for Johnny!”). The scene where Ponyboy recites a poem is cheesy but also very visually striking and beautiful to watch. The poem is ‘Nothing Gold Can Stay’ by Robert Frost – great poem, perfectly chosen for the story:
“Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
It’s really rare that this happens, but in the case of The Outsiders I think the book and the movie are equally amazing.